Round River's Namibia program opens eyes and minds through an entirely wild experience, as conservation is done a little differently in this new southern African nation. Learn how history has shaped conservation in Namibia, and how its independence in 1990 has provided for community-based-conservation. Conversations with diverse individuals from game guards to scientists on topics such as human-wildlife conflict, wilderness, poverty, tourism, hunting or the notion of sustainability will provide answers and stir as many questions.
Small student groups, no larger than 10, live and work in one of the largest most remote wilderness of southern Africa. Representing Round River's longest conservation effort, student crews have been and continue to be the heart of this important conservation work. Rather piled high in the back of a Land Rover or hiking through the sand and rocks students cover a lot of ground conducting this vital research.
Identifying wildlife species by sight and sign, distinguishing the surprisingly similar call of an ostrich from the roar of a lion, changing flat tires, baking bread over hot coals, experiencing the desert’s extreme climate changes and greeting Namibians in their multiple languages are all of due course during a typical day.
Challenge yourself, join this program, and learn how to exercise your long standing passions for conservation and wild places.
Roughly twice the size of California with fewer then 2 million people the Republic of Namibia resides in southwestern Africa between the frigid waters of the southern Atlantic Ocean and the vast expanses of the Kalahari Desert. On its western border is the infamous Skeleton Coast with its barren beaches and rolling dunes.
Round River works in the 28 million acre Kunene Region of northwest Namibia. The deserts of the Kunene are one of the last true wildernesses remaining in southern Africa. This distinctive ecoregion is home to the black rhino, desert elephants, as well as lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, mountain zebra, giraffe, springbok, oryx and kudu. This area is also rich in cultural diversity; the Damara, Himba, and Herrero live throughout this region, mostly raising goats and cattle and growing small gardens. Local communities are organized into conservancies that are tasked with managing their communal lands and wildlife resources. It is with the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and these local conservancies that Round River primarily works.
The Student Program
Namibia offers an opportunity to explore and experience community-based wildlife conservation. The productive and rich wildlife populations of the Kunene Region are subject to pressures from meat and trophy hunting, livestock grazing, human conflicts and tourism. Assisted by the conservancy's game guards, Round River student research crews conduct game counts to ascertain population numbers and trends that are vitally important to inform management decisions necessary to sustain this wildlife. Each program is also unique with opportunities to participate in other research providing diverse perspectives of how conservation is done in local communities.
Home for three months is Wereldsend, a remote camp situated between the Skeleton Coast and Etosha National Park. The abundant wildlife and beautiful setting provides a comfortable place to recuperate between field trips that range from 3 to 14 days and involve long four-wheel drives and hikes. Heavy-duty canvas tents are provided at Wereldsend. While conducting research mobile bush camps are utilized and everyone brings their own back packing tents. Camp maintenance and cooking duties are shared using small gas stoves or over a fire. The “luxury accommodations” at Wereldsend, also provides outhouses and showers, and ample study space. In addition, a small solar power station powers small electronics and charges batteries. This small desert outback becomes home surprisingly fast.
Students participate in the following activities:
- Assist game guards in five conservancies (Anabeb, Sesfontein, Ehirovipuka, Omatendeka, and Torra) with wildlife inventories and habitat studies to support and complement Namibia's Annual Game Count. This offers students the opportunity to work closely with local Conservancy staff, see a variety of wildlife and terrain, and contribute valuable, much-needed data.
- In each of these 5 conservancies, student research crews conduct game counts, monitoring for endemic and endangered species, as well as help build the capacity of conservancy game guards during computer skills training sessions.
- Interact with communities from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and learn first hand about their culture, history, and language.
- Also, if time allows and the research is completed a visit Etosha National Park and the notorious Skeleton Coast National Park to record observations of flora and fauna and compare the national park system in Namibia to that of North America.
- Applied Conservation Biology (3 credits)
- Introduction to Biological Field Methods (3 credits)
- Natural History of Namibia (3 credits)
- Humans and the Environment (3 credits)
- Human Impacts on Ecology (3 credits)
- Spring Semester: February 18 - May 12
- Fall Semester: September 20 – December 13
What to Expect
Students live in the field, in small bush camps, conducting research. This research is supplemented by academics: readings, discussions, and lectures from instructors and guest lecturers. Four-wheel drive vehicles access study sites and fieldwork is conducted from these vehicles and by foot.
To effectively conduct the needed research activities, the student field crew must be mobile, moving camp often to new study locations. Students cook, clean, maintain equipment and because wildlife is very abundant, follow strict guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.
All Round River programs are unique and no one program is the same as the last. Our local partners, the local communal conservancies and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, guide this research and students may assist with various projects. Students gain valuable field methods, a vast number of wildlife species, field journaling techniques, and by the end of the program a good understanding of community-based conservation. Very often there are also opportunities to work with local villagers and/or children, leading environmental education activities.
Because of the nature of field-based research, schedules always seem to change, therefore maintaining a positive adaptive attitude is ever important for all members of the crew. For those willing to be challenged, this program and Namibia offers an incredible opportunity to experience and gain diverse perspectives on conservation in southern Africa.
"My time in Namibia solidified my passion for conservation, and jump-started my obsession with southern African peoples, wildlife, and culture. If you are one of those people who wants to go out and 'do it,' actually make a difference on the ground, and do conservation 'in the trenches,' then a more hands-on and inspirational program can not be found." - - Chris (Namibia 2012, Lafayette College '13)
"My experience in Namibia was completely transformative on my academic direction. I am a multi-dispiniarian at heart, and I thrived being surrounded by all disciplines that that powerful landscape and the team had to offer: botany, anthropology, natural history, geology, research methods, teamwork and leadership. From that experience, I pursed International Relations and Environmental Studies and am now professionally involved in the intersection of international development and conservation through ethical and environmentally sustainable sourcing of forest products." - - Caroline (Namibia 2009, Colby College '10)
"My time in Namibia was the most memorable experience of my life. Round River is such a unique organization that provides the opportunity for future conservation practitioners to play a significant role in community conservation initiatives. These initiatives are not make believe, but instead are directly benefiting the livelihoods of thousands of people. The entire time I was in Namibia I was fully immersed in a place and culture so different than mine. My eyes were opened every day to new people and experiences. Round River gave me the opportunities to interact in a sensitive and meaningful way with indigenous communities. These unique experiences constantly made me revaluate my lifestyle and perceptions of the world. My time in Namibia reinforced my desire to pursue a career in community-based conservation and gave me the professional skills and real world experiences to make that desire a reality." - - Nick (Namibia 2008, Colorado State University ’11)
"Round River Namibia was an experience that taught me an incredible amount about not only the land I was staying in, but also myself. The time I spent with Round River was an opportunity to get outside of my comfort zone and examine the world around me with a different perspective. Whether it was adjusting to the ever-changing schedule, or realizing just how bad I really can smell going so long without showers, some of the most adverse challenges turned out to be the ones that made the trip most memorable for me. This program offered me an experience I literally could not have gotten anywhere else. The stark landscapes we lived in and the diverse cultures we worked with made the time I spent abroad one I still have yet to find a fitting description for. To describe it any other way would be an injustice. Offering me a much clearer view of my world around me, Round River gave me a focus that I do not think I would have achieved anywhere else." - - Ben (Namibia 2008, Colby College ‘10)
"My time in Namibia with Round River was important personally as well as academically. Seeing how conservation works in a country so different from my own is valuable for developing a global environmental consciousness, and will help me understand conservation initiatives at home. It affirmed my potential career interest in conservation, and gave me insight to the importance of field research in policy and community work. While working on the Kunene Regional Ecological Assessment, I realized that to make conservation work, the focus has to be on people and their relationship to the land they live on, which I had not previously understood. My ability to think independently and introspectively increased, and I gained confidence for traveling in unknown areas. I am deeply grateful for the experience, and I am looking forward to applying the many skills I learned in Namibia to conservation work in the US." - - Erica (Namibia 2008, Whitman College ‘09)
"Round River did more to help me define my own professional goals than anything else I have done. Their holistic approach fits the needs of the communities they work in, and I felt as though all of my work represented a real contribution to the conservation project. I would recommend Round River to anyone who wants to lace up their boots and really learn the business of conservation ecology." - - Will (Namibia 2003, Oberlin College)
"I wanted to drop you a note with a parent's perspective regarding my daughter's experience in the Round River Namibia program in the fall of 2009. In short, the program was an outstanding experience for her. I’m very appreciative that this opportunity was available for her, and also that Colby's Off-Campus Study office approved the program for academic credit.
"To be specific, the program was strong in several critical respects. First, the learning objectives and academic standards were rigorous, and the academic work was challenging, creative, and rewarding. The course material was highly relevant for our daughter's Environmental Studies degree. Among other tasks, all of the students had to prepare a formal report on some aspect of the content they were learning in Namibia. Our daughter's report was a critical analysis of conservancy systems in Namibia and their levels of success. There were high expectations for the students' work products, and the students worked on these projects with a great deal of dedication and focus.
"Second, the organization of the program was first-rate, both stateside and in Africa. During the preparation phase we were kept aware in a timely way of everything that our daughter needed. Round River provided detailed instructions regarding the visa application, and they coordinated the paperwork for all of the student participants. Their program contacts, Doug and Heidi, were consistently available to provide information and to talk, and they were also responsive during the time that our daughter was away in Namibia.
"Third, and perhaps needless to say, the experiential part of the program was spectacular. Our daughter has told us numerous stories about the Namibian terrain, the wildlife, the sociopolitical issues, and the remarkable people whom the students met and who played a role in their educational experiences. In sum, as parents, we are extremely pleased with the Round River organization and the educational value of its Namibia program. Based on our daughter's experience, we heartily recommend it for other students who have similar interests, and we certainly recommend that Colby continue to allow students to take advantage of this academic opportunity."
- Parent of a Colby College student (Namibia 2009)
Take a look at what our students have been working on!
Conservancy Game Guard Training in the Kunene, Namibia: Implementing Field Methodology of Wildlife Monitoring and Spurring Local Autonomy. By Chris Kelly, Jake Hostnik, and Lorna Reimers.
Methodology Evaluation of the Wildlife Monitoring Conducted by Round River Conservation Studies. By Emily Seelen and Cora Baker.
Human-Wildlife Conflict in Ehi-Rovipuka Conservancy. By Caitlin Campbell and Allison Konkowski.
A Vegetation Resource Inventory for Otjiu-West and Omatendeka Conservancies, Kunene Region, Namibia. By Rebekah Woodin, Rachel Brooks, and Rauna Gebhard.
Monitoring Methodologies for Black-Faced Impala (Aepyceros melampus petersi) and Plains Zebra (Equus burchelli) in Ehi-rovipuka Conservancy, Namibia. By Sarah Carroll and Anna Schmidt.
Two Pilot Projects: Diurnal Activities and Distribution of Loxodonta africana in the Huab River Catchment, Namibia. By Ashley Dibble and Sarah Stadler.
An Assessment of the Protection of Water Points from Elephant Damage in the Sorris-Sorris Conservancy, Namibia. By Emily Moravec and Ryann Milne-Price.
A resource inventory of vegetation in the conservancies of Okondjombo, Orupembe, and Sanitatas, Namibia. By Charlotte Alster and Ian Higgins.
An Assessment of Plant Resource Use and its Role in Food Security for Communities Living within Bwabwata National Park, West Caprivi. By: Susie Dain-Owens, Jessica Lavelle, Lucy Kemp, Andy Notoupolous, Alex Diemer, Aubree Meyer, Clara Smoniewski, Corrie Wilcox, Jenny Helm, Kim Hackett, Moriah Hounsell, Tessa Emmer, Theo Papademetriou
Assessing the Accuracy of the Relative Likelihood of Grazing Model in the Doro !Nawas Conservancy, By Tyler Andrews and Sophie Ellis
Examining Household Level Non-Financial Effects of Membership to Namibian Conservancies, By Blair Braverman
Improving Management Decisions: Modules for Ecosystem-Wide Data Collection, By Rachel Cadwallader-Staub and Caroline Turnbull
Human-Elephant Conflict and Correspondence to Elephant Habitat Suitability in the Kunene Region, Namibia, By Amber Fischer and Megan Rabinowich
Genealogy and Inter-Calving Rates: Analysis of the Reproductive Success of Diceros bicornis in the Kunene Region, By Rebecca Reusch, Alice Wisener, and Lauren Sopher
The Effectiveness of Existing Elephant Protection Against Elephant Damage to Artificial Water-Points, By Jessie Swett, Sam Fischer, and Sarah Hart